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Italy’s infamous city of Pisa is located in the central region of Tuscany. It is the capital of the Pisa province and stands on the river Arno. Probably founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC, the city prospered as a Roman colony from around 180 BC. From the 10th to the 11th centuries, it was a powerful maritime republic that rivalled Venice and Genoa. Pisa was defeated by Genoa in 1284 and by Florence in 1406. Galileo, who was born in the city in 1564, studied and taught at the university which was a centre of Renaissance learning. Tourism aside, industries here include textiles, glass and machine tools.

Above: The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Galileo conducted a famous experiment at the site, dropping a cannonball and a pebble from the tower. He showed that objects of different masses fall to the ground together, proving that acceleration due to gravity is the same for all objects. With objects of different cross-sectional area, air resistance to downward motion may also be different and result in them hitting the ground at different times.

Landmarks in Pisa include Cathedral Square (Piazza del Miracoli) which is the site of the cathedral itself with its Baptistery built opposite, its infamous free-standing campanile which stands at an angle and the Camposanto (the graveyard to the left of the cathedral), the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, several other churches including the vintage San Michele in Borgo, the late 1500’s Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, Santa Maria della Spina, San Paolo a Ripa, San Pierino, Santo Sepolcro, Parrocchia di San Nicola and San Frediano.

Above: A composite image (Mercator projection) of Piazza del Miracoli showing (left to right) the Baptistery, the Cathedral and the Campanile

Other landmarks include several palaces, including Palazzo della Carovana, Palazzo Blu, Palazzo Gambacorti, Palazzo Medici and Palazzo dell’Orologio, Domus Galilaeana (the Galileo museum, which also houses a library), Logge di Banchi, Università degli Studi, the National Museum of San Matteo, Knights' Square (Renaissance square and the second main square in the city - home to the palace of the first Medici, Cosimo I), Museo delle sinopie, Natural Park Migliarino San Rossore, Orto botanico di Pisa and Natural History Museum of the University of Pisa, This list is not exhaustive, to describe each sight would extend beyond the scope of this webpage and in short, there is a lot to see and do in Pisa - not just a leaning tower. If all of the sights seem too much, a stroll along the banks of the Arno River is a pleasant way to unwind from the mass crowds of tourists hovering around Piazza del Miracoli. Some photographs taken from a visit to Pisa in the summer of 2018 can be viewed in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

References and Further Reading

For some further reading, as well as the mainstream guidebooks covering Italy, the Author’s personal favourite sources of information and further reading has been (although shamefully not in print) Florence and Tuscany (Cultural Guides) by Marianne Mehling and published by Phaidon and Tilt: The Skewed Tale of the Tower of Pisa by Nicholas Shrady, which provides a compelling biography of the iconic Tower of Pisa.

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